Have you ever seen the film "Accepted"?
If you haven't, I highly recommend it. It seems like a silly film, but has a powerful message about traditional schooling and how it just doesn't work for some people - but that doesn't mean they aren't interested in or suited for learning.
Primary and secondary education do mostly one thing, encourage sameness. Everyone should know the same facts learned in the same way in order to produce the same result. There are those that thrive in this environment, those who struggle, and those who are basically invisible within the system. But if we had the ability to encourage children to explore their different-ness, we might experience less resistance and more real learning.
There is a story about a ballerina whose mother took her to a doctor when she was young because she couldn't sit still in class. The doctor told the mother that the problem wasn't that the girl couldn't sit still, but that she was required to sit at all. If she can't sit and read, why not invest her time doing whatever it is that she can do - which was dance. And so she danced until she became a famous ballerina.
But what if this child's mother hadn't listened to the doctor and instead said "But sitting still is what children need to do, it's what they need to learn." ? What if the doctor had prescribed the girl a medication to help her sit still instead of recognizing her potential for greatness in other areas? What if we do these same things to our children all the time?
This book is too hard for my 6 year old.
But he wanted to read it.
So I bought it.
And do you know what? He reads it every night. He averages about one page a day and he tells me all about it. He tells me that he read a word he doesn't know. He tells me the book is about dragons. He tells me the wingspan of a specific dragon. He tells me the word "the" is written 6 times on the first page. He tells me because he is reading it.
And I could tell him he needs to wait. I could tell him it's too advanced. I could tell him that at the rate he's reading, it will be the end of this year before he finishes this book. But I could also just help him with the word he doesn't know. And I could listen to the information about dragons and tell him about scientists who record similar information about animals. And I could be excited that he identified at least 6 words on the page he read today.
Unschooling is not a rejection of learning, but rather the embracing of it.
It is trusting that your child is interesting and interested.
It is helping them to do the things they desire, rather than the things they "should".
Jinora wants to go to school.
So we tell her to go.
So she packs up her bag and wanders the house with a notebook. She writes things in her notebook because she wants to be a learner. She asks questions of the imaginary teacher and invites her animals to play with her and learn.
I could tell her she will never go to school. I could tell her that she can't actually write. I could tell her that I'm her teacher and she can ask me questions. I could tell her that typically bats aren't allowed in a classroom environment. But I could also just allow her to experience school in the way she imagines it to exist. And I could encourage her to write, even though I'm running out of notebooks. And I could let her "teacher" come up with answers and see where her imagination takes her with her friend bat.
Unschooling doesn't have laws or boundaries.
There is no structure so there can be any structure.
There is the acceptance that anything can happen when you let go.